As of July 1, the county's mental health services along with disability services began being handled through a new regional approach. The region, an outgrowth of the state's mental health redesign, is called Northwest Iowa Care Connection and serves the residents to Clay, Dickinson, Lyon, O'Brien, Osceola and Palo Alto Counties.
As part of the redesign, the region is promoting the concept of customized employment for adults with disabilities. Representatives from the region, Horizons Unlimited and Palo Alto County Disabilities Services Coordinator Maureen Sandberg held a meeting for local employers at the end of June. Facilitating the meeting was consultant Luther Snow. He is the inventor and developer of Asset Mapping and is working with the region as they work towards increasing the number of people utilizing customized employment. He sees the partnership between the local agencies and employers as an economic development tool.
Examples of successful customized employment placements in Palo Alto County were shared during the meeting. Kathy Jackson of Horizons spoke about one of their members, LeRoy, who successfully works two part-time jobs. He spends part of his workweek at the Building Center in Emmetsburg and receives high praise from his employer, Dustin Nosbusch.
"LeRoy keeps the store and shelves clean and orderly, making the showroom more appealing to our customers and giving us the professional look that we try to present," wrote Nosbusch. He added that he is pleased with the partnership they have developed with Horizons.
Wild Rose Casino's Audrey Neimann shared that they have been tied in with Horizons for many years and it works well. She also shared the story of Paul who is now a full-time employee and a valued team member of their staff. While working in the kitchen, he coaches his co-workers.
Retired Food Pride owner Randy Joersz spoke about the coaching support that is provided. He spoke about Jodi and the contribution she has made to the grocery store. She was first given the opportunity to learn how to face the store shelves. Her latest accomplishment is scanning and making product price adjustments. Focusing on her work gives Jodi tremendous personal satisfaction and allows her supervisors to do the managerial work that facing shelves took them away from.
As Luther wrapped up the meeting, he asked those in attendance to think about possible ways that they, as local employers, could possibly tap into the employee resources offered by this program.
"It is a discovery process and it is all about relationship building," said Luther. "It is about making lives better. We can do more together than we can do on our own."
The take-away from the meeting was for potential employers to think about ways that adults with disabilities can be used in their settings.
Additional information on Customized Employment is available by contacting Kathy Jackson, Job Developer with Horizons Unlimited at 712-852-2211 x124 or Maureen Sandberg, Palo Alto County Disability Services Coordinator at 712-852-2832.